STRAWBERRY BANKS farm
Horses are a love but Arabian horses are a passion. â€” Barbara Chur
strawberry banks farm
Strawberry Banks Farm is a special place, not only for the horses, but for family and friends as well. Each of our children and grandchildren enjoy the farm in their own way, and they appreciate the dedication and hard work that everyone contributes every day. We have celebrated weddings and funerals and many family gatherings here, as well as a daily celebration of the Arabian horses we love so much. I hope Neil and I have set a fine example for loving all of Godâ€™s creatures, and showing kindness toward one another. This is our story â€” we hope you enjoy it. Most of all, we hope that everyone may know the joy that the Arabian horse can bring to oneâ€™s life.
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STRAWBERRY BANKS farm by Gary Dearth
The Early Years
The name “Strawberry Banks Farm” brings to mind the legendary Arabian show horses from Neil and Barbara Churs’ breeding program — Ericca, A Temptation, Allience, and so many others. The Churs were a formidable partnership and shared a passion for Arabian horses. After Neil’s passing in 2005, Barbara continued the breeding program, and their daughter, Lissa, and her daughter, Sawyer, are poised to carry on the Strawberry Banks legacy. “In 1976, we purchased 100 acres outside of East Aurora, New York,” says Barbara. “Having grown up in East Aurora, we knew the area well. The woods on the property were filled with wild strawberries. I was picking and eating them as we were walking along. There was a seventy-five foot bank that went down to the ‘river,’ which really is Cazenovia Creek, and it ran the length of the property. That’s where the name Strawberry Banks Farm came from.” Like many of us, Neil and Barbara began with a Half-Arabian. “I wasn’t a horse crazy kid growing up,” said Barbara. “My first experience was when we were introduced to Arabian horses by our high school friends, Bob and Barb Daily, in 1976. We built our first barn with their help, but we were only going to build two stalls. They cautioned us that you can always use more room. So, we built four stalls immediately adjacent to our house. They loaned us a Half-Arabian mare to care for over the winter and foal her out to see if we would like it. The most magical moment of a mare and her new foal stole our hearts. This was for us. We were on our way! That first winter we had five horses in a four-horse barn. The next year we added twelve stalls and a small indoor arena. We were at that farm for twenty-five years.” In the beginning, the Churs traveled extensively to expose themselves to a wide variety of Arabian horses. “We went to see all kinds of Arabian horses and we weren’t sure what we wanted — Polish, Russian, American-bred, or Egyptian. From the first moment, we knew that we liked nice looking, beautiful horses and that they had to move and be athletic,” says Barbara. “We appreciated useful horses. Even though we didn’t ride, we decided we had to have performance horses. Our first real welcome to the Arabian horse world was Garth Buchanan. We read Arabian Horse World religiously and knew of her from the magazine.
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So, in 1979 we took a trip to Iowa. Garth was a little sprite of a thing — this busy little white-haired gal in rubber boots scooting through the ice and snow in horrible weather. Neil and I were having trouble keeping up with her. Azraff (*Raffles x *Azja IV) had just celebrated his thirtieth birthday. She told us a few things that have stayed with me, for instance, ‘When a foal is born, look at it at two hours, two days, two weeks, two months and then not again until it is two years old.’ We only visited her that one time, but that is all it took to cement our desire to pursue breeding Arabian horses. Garth’s excitement and her love of Arabian horses affected us deeply. She amazed and inspired us.” Barbara admits that in their early naivete, they learned a lot of things the hard way — including handling a stallion for breeding. “We went to Tom Chauncey’s sale in Scottsdale, because like so many people just starting with Arabians, we wanted to buy a stallion,” she says. “We ended up buying the stallion
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Top left: Neil and Barbara Chur with A Love Song (*Bask x *Elkana), the producer of multiple National Champions. Facing page, top: A Temptation (Tempter x A Love Song) and Brian Murch. Facing page, bottom: Elegant Crystal (*Aladdinn x *Elkana) in Cazenovia Creek, which runs the length of the Strawberry Banks Farm property. The creek, lined with wild strawberries, inspired the farm’s name.
I am most proud that the Strawberry Banks-bred horses have a recognizable “look.” — Barbara Chur
Fascinashun (Tornado x Fantasia Drift) who was beautiful. We brought him home and planned to breed him to our purebred mare. When it came time to breed her, I took her out to our small indoor arena. I was holding her thinking ‘hooray, here we go, this is so important.’ Neil came out with Fascinashun. When he jumped on her, she jumped forward and knocked me down. Neil was trying to get the stallion off of her, but he was not inclined to do so. Neil gave him a good shove and his shoulder went out. Now Neil is standing there with one arm dangling looking very grey. I wiggled off the ground and put the mare away. Neil crawled over to the loose shavings pile in the corner of the arena and he flopped down while barely hanging onto Fascinashun. If he didn’t have such a wonderful personality, heaven only knows what would have happened. I took him from Neil and put him back in the stall. That was our first and last live cover. We left it to the professionals from then on!”
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Above: Mares pictured from left to right: Solina (Solstice x Cameliera), Ericca (Tempter x Elegant Crystal), Elegant Crystal (*Aladdinn x *Elkana), and Sydnie (Tempter x Strawa). Facing page: The Strawberry Banks mare barn at sunrise. It was designed and built in the Polish tradition which allows mares and foals to co-exist in an open environment.
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*Elkana (Aquinor x Estebna), the dam of A Love Song, who laid the foundation for the Strawberry Banks breeding program.
The Foundation — A Love Song
The 1979 Scottsdale show provided the spark. “At that show, you can see so many horses, and the more we honed in on what we liked, the more we realized that it was *Bask breeding and Polish horses that were the most interesting to us. Even though the *Bask sons were great, it was the *Bask daughters that we loved, and we believed they cemented his reputation.” In 1979 the Churs purchased the mare Sherribask (*Bask x Kismetseyn) and bred her to *Aladdinn. “Sadly, she colicked and died in our front yard,” says Barbara. “It was the most horrible thing that we had ever faced with an animal. With the insurance money, we started looking for another *Bask daughter. We were huge fans of *Elkana (Aquinor x Estebna), who was owned by Aude Espourteille. We heard that *Elkana foaled a *Bask filly, so I flew up to Oregon to see her. I happened to be dressed in pink and at the time, A Love Song was very pink. As soon as I saw her I fell in love with her. Aude said, ‘The two of you need to be together. You are both pink.’” Aude adds, “It was pouring rain when Barb came to see A Love Song. Even though she was six months old, she was still with her dam; she’d been sick so we hadn’t weaned her.” The purchase of A Love Song laid the foundation for the Churs’ success, and spawned an important friendship with Aude. “After the Churs purchased A Love Song, we became very close friends,” says Aude. “Because of the horses we were like family. Neil and Barbara ended up with three *Elkana daughters. Theirs was the perfect place for her offspring.” While A Love Song would likely have had a successful show career, the Churs decided that her potential significance as a broodmare far outweighed the risks that came with traveling and showing. “She was never professionally trained, but we rode her with both a saddle and bareback all over the farm,” says Barbara. “At one of our open houses, I decided that even though I was a non-rider, I was going to ride her into the arena sidesaddle. I told everyone not to tell Melanie Murch, because she wouldn’t let me.” We associate the Strawberry Banks national wins with various professional trainers, but in the early
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RIE JONES PHOTO
A Love Song (*Bask x *Elkana), foaled in 1979, left, was an important foundation mare for Strawberry Banks. Barbara Chur is pictured aboard A Love Song, below, at one of their open houses.
years it was Neil and Barbara doing it themselves. “I made our first stall curtains for our first show,” says Barbara. “I bought burlap, and red and white gingham, and sewed a ruffle. Neil was showing weanlings in halter and I was the groom. We had some local folks train a horse for our daughter to ride. I was telling someone recently at Youth Nationals that we put our daughter on a horse that had a two-week-old foal. We took the mare out and left the foal in the barn. She was supposed to be a western horse and she and Lissa lapped everybody in the class. The mare was crying for her foal and the foal was crying for its mother. We were so naive that we didn’t know why she was acting like that.”
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Left: A Love Song and her daughter To Love Again (by Cognac), 1988 mare. Middle right: Tonki (*Bask x *Boltonka), 1967 mare, was another precious Polish foundation mare for Strawberry Banks. Facing page, left to right: Four special foundation mares, *Ettoria (*Aloes x Etruria), Elegant Crystal (*Aladdinn x *Elkana), Dancing Love (*Bask x Habina), and A Love Song.
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The Polish Influence
“We went to Poland pretty early on in our involvement with Arabian horses. We were inspired by the strength and determination of the Poles,” says Barbara. “We were also inspired by the way their mare barns were designed. When we built our second farm in L’Esprit, Kentucky, in 1984, we incorporated this design by putting small arenas at the ends of the barns. We used that design once again when we built our farm in East Aurora in 1996. At the time, there was no transported semen, so the mares had to go to the stallions. When the shipping of semen came about there was no reason for owners to ship their mares for breeding, so our farm in Kentucky became unnecessary and we eventually sold it.” In 1997, the Churs built a new facility on 250 acres just three miles from their original farm. Twenty years later, it is still the home of Strawberry Banks. The Polish influence is seen there as well. Strawberry Banks client Ralph Manning first attended a Strawberry Banks open house specifically to see how the Polish management style was utilized. “In addition to wanting to see their horses, I was very interested to see how the Churs were raising their horses in the Polish tradition,” says Ralph. “I liked how they had their mare barns set up with the mares tied around the perimeter for feeding and the foals loose in the center.” The Churs made numerous trips to Poland, including a memorable one with Barbara’s mother. “My mom and I went to Poland one year,” she said. “The director of Michalow, Mr. Jaworowski, invited us to his home for lunch, and I took him flowers. He was so taken aback. He said no woman had ever given him flowers. We had lunch that day with Charlie Watts and his wife Shirley. My mom was thrilled that she got to sit next to Charlie Watts for lunch. He was the most personable fellow and they laughed and had a wonderful time.” Since 1976, the Strawberry Banks breeding program has been dominated by Polish bloodlines. “I prefer the old Polish blood to the more ‘modern’ pedigrees,” says Barbara. “I love the strength of the horses from those earlier bloodlines. Obviously *Bask was the greatest importance for us — past, present, and future. The *Bask daughters were incredible. Our two *Elkana daughters, A Love Song and Elegant Crystal, were the foundation of our whole program, along with Tonki (*Bask x *Boltonka). I learned from the Poles that the mares are the most important thing. That was the greatest lesson I gained from my time in Poland.”
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I love the horses dearly. My life would not be complete without them. â€” Barbara Chur
Right: EA Candy Girl (Hucklebey Berry x Candy Hearts), 1999 mare. Below: Eternally Yours (A Temptation x Ericca), 2005 mare, with her colt by Hey Hallelujah.
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Ericca (Tempter x Elegant Crystal), 1990 mare, with Barbara Chur and trainer Tim Shea, during a special presentation of past National Champions at Freedom Hall, Louisville, Kentucky, in 2006.
The Ideal — Ericca
The mare Elegant Crystal (*Aladdinn x *Elkana) added another dimension to the growing Strawberry Banks breeding program. She was conceived in partnership with Aude Espourteille. “We used their breeding and my mare,” says Aude. Elegant Crystal was bred to the Strawberry Banks stallion Tempter (Cognac x Tonki) and produced the beautiful grey filly, Ericca, in 1990. From the beginning, she looked like she was going to be a star. “When Ericca came in our barn as a two-year-old, we put her on a longe line and she had so much spirit and style about her. She radiated greatness,” says her trainer Tim Shea. “She had size, long legs, a beautiful neck, and great movement. We knew she was something special the moment she arrived.” After being named the 1994 U.S. National Champion English Pleasure Junior Horse, Ericca’s show career made a significant turn. The former owner of Ericca’s grandam, *Elkana — Mike Nichols — had seen her at the Sheas turned loose and stood up, and said, “Why don’t you show this mare in halter?” So, on that dark November day, Ericca’s halter career began. “We told Tim that if she was going to show in halter, he had to do it. He even bought a new Armani suit to wear showing her,” said Barbara. Tim first showed Ericca in halter at the 1995 Buckeye Championships where she was named the unanimous Champion Mare, and she followed that with the Region 14 Championship. Barbara credits a great deal of Ericca’s halter success on her resemblance to her grandam *Elkana. “Ericca carried many of *Elkana’s beautiful characteristics. We were so very proud of her,” says Barbara. Every year there are a number of strong contenders for the title of U.S. National Champion Mare and 1995 was no exception. “One of the other mare owners told us that she had the mare that was going to be National Champion,” remembers Barbara. “We told her that was great. But later, Neil said, ‘What the hell, maybe we do.’ Oh my goodness, Ericca won unanimously. That was the thrill of a lifetime.”
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Ericca became the first U.S. National Champion Mare who had previously been a U.S. National Champion in performance. “Ericca winning both those titles was such a big deal,” says Tim. “That was back when there was one National Champion Stallion and one National Champion Mare, so those classes had huge importance. They weren’t watered down by extra classes like they are today.” The 1995 U.S. Nationals was a watershed event for the Churs and their breeding program. They also bred Allience (*Aladdinn x A Love Song), who was named U.S. National Champion Park, for then owner Greg Green, and Strawberry Banks Farm mare To Love Again (Cognac x A Love Song) went Top Ten in English Pleasure. The following year Ericca was named U.S. Top Ten English Pleasure with Tim Shea. “Ericca came closest to our ideal,” says Barbara. “I loved her body, her tail carriage, and her eyes were gorgeous. We didn’t have many foals from Ericca, but we have two amazing daughters in our broodmare band who have been outstanding producers for us — one by Hey Hallelujah, Emayzing Grace, and one by A Temptation, Eternally Yours.”
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Facing page: Ericca was bred by Strawberry Banks Farm and created a dynasty of her own after a successful career in performance and halter. She won 1994 U.S. National and Scottsdale Champion English Pleasure Junior Horse, 1995 U.S. National Champion Mare, and 1995 Buckeye Champion Mare. This photograph of Ericca appeared on the September 1996 cover of Arabian Horse World. Right: Ericca and trainer Brian Murch at the farm. Bottom right: Neil aboard Errica at the 2002 Buckeye show. Bottom left: Ericca at the 1995 U.S. National Championships with Neil and Barbara.
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Right: The Strawberry Banks-bred Allience (*Aladdinn x A Love Song), with Peter Stachowski winning 2000 U.S. National Champion Park for then owner Greg Green. In addition, Allience won multiple championships in park, formal driving, and English pleasure. Facing page: Tempter (Cognac x Tonki), 1984 stallion, the sire of A Temptation and Errica.
The Heart and Soul — A Temptation
“When the mare Tonki was made available to us we were thrilled,” says Barbara. “She was quite tall, strong-boned, yet pretty. We decided to breed her to the great-moving *Bask son Cognac (x *Gdynia) — breeding a *Bask son to a *Bask daughter was a bold move for us at the time. The resulting foal was Tempter (Cognac x Tonki). He injured his front foot when he was only one week old, so he was never able to be shown. But we were confident that his pedigree would produce greatness. Ericca and A Temptation proved our speculation was correct. The breeding of Tempter to A Love Song was one of our first embryo transfer attempts and A Temptation almost went down the drain. The vet had not found an embryo and I was looking into the microscope as he was explaining what an embryo should look like. I saw something that sounded like his description and voila, there was A Temptation! Divine guidance.” “A Temptation was a genius-type horse from the beginning,” says Tim, his first trainer. “He had extreme athletic ability, a very soft neck, and was calm and responsive. He had tremendous balance. I first showed A Temptation at Scottsdale as a four-year-old in the maiden park class. One of the great things about the Churs was that they never pushed me to get the horses to the showring quickly. They were in full agreement to give the horses as much time as was necessary for them to develop fully. The next year, we brought him out at the Buckeye in junior English and he was sensational. That year he went to nationals and was U.S. National Champion English Pleasure Junior Horse. He was like riding a loose horse. When he came in the ring he blew up and got better. All I had to do was sit there quietly and let him express himself. Because A Temptation was a relaxed horse, I could show him fresh. It is the most fun to show a horse like that. He was all show horse and the epitome of the saddleseat style.”
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RIE JONES PHOTO
A Temptation (Tempter x A Love Song), 1995 stallion, bred by Strawberry Banks, with trainer Tim Shea, left, and enjoying a winter turnout on the farm, above.
“From his beginning as a bashful embryo, A Temptation was a very special horse to me,” says Barbara. “He was the horse that I showed to my first national championship. The second was with his son Exxpectations (x EA Candy Girl). I love all my horses, but Temptation was my love, and the heart and soul of Strawberry Banks.”
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This page and facing page: A Temptation.
The Final Piece — Baske Afire
Few stallions, if any, have ever created as much breeding interest at such a young age as Baske Afire (Afire Bey V x Mac Baske). He had twenty-nine foals registered as a result of his two-year-old breeding season. Baske Afire then went on to breed over one hundred mares in each of the next three breeding seasons. His offspring, both purebred and Half-Arabian, have won countless awards at the national level. While the sire of many great show horses, Baske Afire only showed once. At the 2009 Scottsdale Show he was Champion Pleasure Driving. The excitement was palpable. At that point Baske Afire had already sired over 750 foals and many of them were national winners, yet most Arabian enthusiasts had never seen him in the flesh. Because he was a major sire, it was a bold move on Barbara’s part to allow Baske Afire to show at all. As he and his driver Brian Murch headed to the showring, a wave of humanity followed. Once in the arena, he didn’t disappoint. He won the qualifying class and the championship unanimously. Afterward, Baske Afire returned to New York and retired from the showring undefeated. “I realized that Baske Afire was the last piece I needed for my breeding program,” says Barbara. “I knew that he would make our stallion power complete. He rounded out the picture for us. I had an opportunity to purchase Baske Afire before he went to auction, but I kept hearing Neil in my ear saying, ‘No way. It’s too much money.’ So, ignoring those whispers, on February 19, Neil’s birthday, I ended up spending a (Continued on page 26)
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I love all my horses, but Temptation was my love, and the heart and soul of Strawberry Banks! â€” Barbara Chur
This page and facing page: A Temptation.
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Above: Barbara hopped in the cart for A Temptationâ€™s victory pass with Brian Murch at the 2005 U.S. Nationals. Right: The 2008 mare Rejoice Rejoice (A Temptation x Rumina Afire), 2016 U.S. National Reserve Champion Country Driving AAOTD and 2011 U.S. National Reserve Champion English Pleasure Futurity.
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Left: Barbara with her granddaughter Sawyer Tehan at the 2005 U.S. Nationals. Below: The image of his sire, Exxpectations (A Temptation x EA Candy Girl), and Barbara take a victory lap at the 2013 Arabian Horse Celebration, Louisville, Kentucky.
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Above and facing page: Baske Afire (Afire Bey V x Mac Baske), 1999 stallion, a legendary sire of numerous National Champions who has made a significant impact on the Arabian breed.
lot more. My daughter, Lissa, was at the auction with me and I said to her, ‘Your dad would kill me.’ She agreed, but we were sooo excited! I didn’t just want to buy breedings to Baske Afire, I wanted him to join A Temptation and Hey Hallelujah, filling out a magical trio of stallions in Strawberry Banks’ barn. I am so happy we had the opportunity to have him.” Brian adds, “The biggest thing I tell everybody is that he went way beyond my expectations. Everyone had come to the conclusion that he was more of a Half-Arabian sire. There are now as many good purebreds by him as there are Half-Arabs. Based on what I have seen, I believe that the Baske Afire daughters are going to produce as well as the *Bask daughters did. I see them crossing great with a variety of stallions.” Baske Afire was only sixteen years old when he passed in 2015, and had only been owned by Strawberry Banks for seven years. “His greatness as a sire will go down in history. We just didn’t have him long enough,” laments Barbara.
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Above: Baske Afire at Scottsdale, the only time he was shown, winning 2009 Champion Pleasure Driving with Brian Murch. Right: Princess Of Baske (Baske Afire x Berry Fancee), 2013 U.S. National Champion Pleasure Driving open and National Reserve Champion Pleasure Driving AAOTD.
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Remember Romance (Baske Afire x RY Fire Ghazi), 2005 mare.
The Horseman — Brian Murch
The year 2000 saw the arrival of Brian Murch as the Strawberry Banks resident trainer. “Their horses stood out to me because they were both athletic and beautiful,” says Brian. “They had all these beautiful, grey, big-eyed Polish horses that were just stunning to look at. We all saw Ericca and To Love Again, and then A Temptation come along. I had judged the Buckeye the year Tim showed A Temptation there. When they came into the ring it gave me goosebumps. In the fall of that year, I got a call from the Churs, and arrangements were made for me to go to New York and meet them. I am thankful to Greg Knowles for introducing me to the Churs, and recommending me to them.” Greg Knowles Brian and Melanie Murch.
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Facing page and below: Hey Hallelujah (Huckleberry Bey x Hallelujah Bask), 1993 stallion.
explains, “I told Neil and Barbara that I thought Brian would be perfect for them because he’s a great, honest, hard-working guy. After 17 years, he is still there because of those attributes.” Neil and Barbara also thought Brian would be perfect for them. He was accomplished in the English and driving divisions. He had learned from the best of the best — Lasma Arabians. Along with Brian came Hey Hallelujah (Huckleberry Bey x Hallelujah Bask), owned by Don Smith. Barbara fell in love with the grey stallion who was the son of the beautiful *Bask daughter, Hallelujah Bask (*Bask x Heritage Montoya). Years earlier, the Churs had wanted to purchase her, but during the 1980s heyday auction sales, she sold for entirely too much money for
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In 2001, Brian Murch and Hey Hallelujah went U.S. National Champion English Pleasure and A Temptation was named U.S. National Reserve Champion English Pleasure ridden by Tim Shea. No other farm has ever accomplished this feat in the same year.
them to add her to their breeding program. Fittingly, Brian had ridden Hey Hallelujah’s dam Hallelujah Bask to National Championships in park. As 2001 progressed, Hey Hallelujah won the English Pleasure championship at both Scottsdale and the Canadian Nationals. “The Churs were really seeing what a special stallion Hey Hallelujah was, particularly Barb,” says Brian’s wife Melanie. “When we came home from Canada, Neil had become very serious about purchasing Hey, but his owners Don and Sue Smith, were a bit reluctant to sell him. Dick Adams, who was still working with Don along with Brian and me, really wanted Hey to stay with us. Brian had been trying to negotiate a sale, but it just wasn’t going anywhere. We wanted Hey to become part of the Strawberry Banks family. The Churs were breeding primarily pure Polish, and we knew that he would be an asset to their already successful breeding program. Neil also knew how much Barbara really wanted to own him. As our September open house was approaching, Neil had become very serious about purchasing him. The plan was to announce it during the evening session. We were going to make one last ditch attempt to buy Hey. Late in the afternoon of the open house, Neil wrote down a number on a Post-It note and gave it to me. Brian was busy, so it was just Dick and I that were trying to make this happen. Dick was in California on the phone desperately trying to get ahold of Don Smith, but he was out buying hot dogs! By now we were starting to get frantic because the evening session of the open house was going on. Finally, Dick got a hold of Don and he agreed to sell Hey for the amount on the Post-It note. Minutes later, we announced that we had just purchased Hey Hallelujah. That’s when Barbara and the crowd found out that the sale had been finalized. It was a great night!”
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After Brian and Hey Hallelujah won 2001 U.S. National Champion English Pleasure, this clinched the “Triple Crown” of Scottsdale, Canadian National, and U.S. National wins for the duo.
Hey Hallelujah and Brian Murch, middle left and right, and Hey at home at Strawberry Banks, right.
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Neil and Barbara’s granddaughter Sawyer Tehan is an accomplished rider and plans on being a part of Strawberry Banks into the future. She is riding Earth Wynd And Fire (Baske Afire x EA Candy Girl), left, and Hey Its My Toi (Hey Hallelujah x Jatoi), above, at the 2017 Youth Nationals.
Of course, the purchase of Hey Hallelujah meant that the two leading contenders for U.S. National Champion English Pleasure were both owned by Strawberry Banks Farm. While some owners might not have wanted two of their breeding stallions competing for the same title, the Churs let them both show. Brian and Hey Hallelujah won completing the “Triple Crown” of Scottsdale, Canadian National, and U.S. National wins, with A Temptation being named U.S. National Reserve Champion shown by Tim Shea. No other farm has ever owned and shown both the U.S. National Champion and National Reserve Champion English Pleasure horses in the same year. “Even though Hey and I had won Scottsdale and Canada, I didn’t think there was any way that anyone could beat A Temptation at U.S. Nationals,” Brian says of the big win. “The stars lined up and Hey and I won. I remember right after the class Barb saying to me, ‘You won with Hey and now you get to ride A Temptation.’” The following year, A Temptation was named U.S. National Champion English Pleasure with Brian in the irons. “We’ve had three wins that are so special,” says Barbara. “Of course, the first one is Ericca because she won back-to-back performance and halter national championships. Her halter win was especially remarkable for us, because we had not expected to show her in halter. Thank you, Tim! Both of her national championships were unanimous. Right up there with that one was when Hey Hallelujah and A Temptation went National Champion and Reserve in English Pleasure. Brian had just started to work for us and we told him that we would keep A Temptation with Tim through U.S. Nationals. Brian went out and rode the socks off of Hey and they won. The next year he and A Temptation won the U.S. National Champion English Pleasure. Selfishly, the third special win was when I won the national championship with A Temptation in pleasure driving. I had never driven a horse but Brian convinced me to try. In my opinion, Brian knows more about driving a horse than anyone. I didn’t think I could do it, but Brian said, ‘No worries, you will do great.’ That fall, I drove A Temptation and won the national championship. It was very emotional. I still cry when I think about it. A Temptation took care of me.”
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Lissa Tehan, Neil and Barbara’s daughter, takes a victory pass on Princess Of Baske (Baske Afire x Berry Fancee) at the 2014 Buckeye show. “The horses have been a great bonding experience with both my mom and now my daughter,” says Lissa.
Appreciation for Performance — Racing and Polo
While Strawberry Banks Farm is best known for breeding great Arabian show horses, Neil and Barbara’s passion for Arabian horses included racing. “My dear friends Alan and Deb Kirshner were a great help to us getting involved in Arabian racing,” says Barbara. “Our first stab at it was with a young colt we bred named Allience. As a yearling, he had the longest stride and he loved to run, always with his long neck straight out. We figured he was born to be a racer. With Deb and Alan’s help, we sent Allience to Louise Courtelis’ Town and Country Farms as a two-year-old. After a few months of training, he was returned to us with the comment that he would never make it as a racehorse because he had too much action. We had not seen him exhibit any motion, but then again we had never seen him ridden. We then sent him to Tim Shea and the rest is history. Allience was proudly owned by Nancy and Greg Shafer for years until his passing, and won many national championships in park.” The Churs and the Kirshners share many happy memories. “Barbara and I both had horses in the first Arabian race ever run at Churchill Downs,” says Deb Kirshner. “She had Crownn Royal (Sam Tiki x Royal Atheena) there. This was a special milestone for Arabian racing. When Barb and I walked from the saddling paddock onto the track behind our horses and it was announced for the first time ever another breed of horse would be running over that hallowed ground, the significance of the moment hit us. We both got goosebumps.” Barbara adds, “Today I continue to be involved with Arabian racing on a very small scale with Deb and Alan’s help. Their farm, Cre Run, is the heart and soul of Arabian racing. They lease a mare to me each year so I can stay involved.” Alan Kirshner adds, “Racing was Deb’s and my thing, and Neil and Barbara just wanted to support Arabian horses any way they could.” Deb says, “Barbara has continued to dabble in racing Arabians. It’s wonderful to see her use her performance eye. She has always been supportive of and appreciated a great performance horse, whether it’s English pleasure or racing.”
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Neil and Barbara’s passion for Arabian horses included racing. Here is A Second Wind (*Nivour de Cardonne x Wind Gypzi by Starbask) after winning the Texas Yellow Rose Arabian Stakes (G2) with jockey Roxane Losey, showing off the distinctive Strawberry Banks racing silks.
Neil didn’t start riding horses until he was 50 when a neighbor was starting a polo team and convinced Neil to join. “His enjoyment was endless when it came to polo,” says Barbara. “It was a sport that he was able to share with our son, Neil Jr., and it was a huge part of Strawberry Banks Farm, although we did not use Arabians for polo. Neil borrowed a couple of polo ponies to see if this game would be something he and our son would enjoy, and it wasn’t long before they were hooked. They traveled to Florida to watch some of the best polo in the country and came home with polo ponies of their own. Next, of course, was tack, mallets, a truck, and a polo trailer. As the saying goes ‘playing polo is hazardous to your wealth.’ Both father and son became USPA polo players and members of the Teabrook Polo Club in East Aurora. The discovery of the joy of polo eventually led Neil to join the Sarasota Polo Club where he played during the winter months. He would typically play 16 goal (handicap) games in Florida. This was a higher level than what he was used to in East Aurora, but it turned out to be even more fun for him.” As Neil Jr. explains, “My dad and I jumped on a couple horses and got a mallet and some balls. We started on a little stick and ball field and fell in love with the game. From that point on, we played it wholeheartedly. We went all over the northeast playing polo. We became involved with a community of guys who loved the sport. I usually played a back defensive position and my father played on the offensive side. We also had a couple guys on our team who really knew what they were doing. We had a blast. As a result, we got to spend a lot of time together. To be a successful polo player you must really clear your head of everything else and concentrate on playing polo, otherwise you can get hurt. I think my father enjoyed that aspect of the game. It gave him the chance to clear everything out and just play. He absolutely loved it. Those were very special times, because it was just my dad and me. We didn’t talk about anything but polo. To be on the same field with him and have the camaraderie and friendship was pretty neat. It was a good time.”
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Neil played polo frequently and was a USPA player. “His enjoyment was endless when it came to polo,” says Barbara. Neil Sr. and Neil Chur Jr. shared a love for polo. “My dad absolutely loved it. Those were very special times, because it was just my dad and me,” says Neil Jr.
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I would love to be remembered for having produced beautiful horses that are also athletic and trainable. — Barbara Chur
The Healing Process — Halter
“Shortly after Neil’s sudden passing in 2005, I tried once again to involve myself with halter horses,” Barbara says. “I purchased a few fillies and the gorgeous National Champion Mare Maggdalina (Magnum Psyche x Zolina). We showed her once again and she won the National Champion Mare title while I owned her. I so enjoyed my few years showing halter horses. After losing Neil, I needed an escape of sorts, and involving myself with halter showing helped me immensely. I have never had so much fun in the horse business, not necessarily the showing, but the camaraderie. I made some wonderful friends and had such a grand time visiting Brazil and Argentina. It was just the pick-me-up that I needed. However, I was never able to incorporate the halter horses into my breeding program. A beautiful performance horse was my love.”
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Neil and Barbara were awarded the 1996 APAHA Breeder of the Year.
Giving Back — Leading by Example
The Churs have always believed in the importance of giving back to the Arabian horse community that they love so much. Barbara has been an advocate for the breed. “Financially she has been there for so many important projects to help promote the Arabian breed. I’m sure she has given back more than she has received,” says Gene LaCroix. It is easy to forget how active Neil was years ago, and the legacy he left behind. It was Neil’s generosity, along with his friends Arnold Fisher and Alan Kirshner, that launched the yearling halter classes at the U.S. Nationals that today we take for granted. “We were trying to create more breeding,” says Alan. “Neil, Arnold Fisher, and I put up $150,000 each to fund the Arabian yearling halter classes at the U.S. Nationals sponsored by the Arabian Horse Trust. The idea was that we would fund it for three years to get it started. Neil and Arnold were both really into the show market and they believed it would create a market that was more ‘democratic.’ Even though I wasn’t a ‘show person,’ I wanted to help.” As a result, today we have a full complement of yearling halter classes at both the regional and national levels. A market for young halter horses that wouldn’t exist without those classes. While Neil encouraged Alan Kirshner to support Arabian show horses, Alan got Neil to participate with the Arabian Horse Trust by joining its board. “He succeeded me as the president of the Trust,” says Alan. Neil’s involvement in the sport of polo also allowed them the opportunity to give to charity. “We were able to give back to our community by holding numerous fundraisers for local charities on our polo field,” says Barbara. In addition, Strawberry Banks has a tradition of education and attracting new people to the Arabian breed through their open houses. Rae Schwarz is a good example of the many people who became Arabian horse breeders as a result of those open houses. “We had one Arabian horse when we went to our first Strawberry Banks open house,” says Rae. “After attending, we got a lot more excited about the whole Arabian breed experience. We bought Especialley (Tempter x Elegant Crystal), who was Ericca’s full sister. She was the most beautiful horse I had ever seen. We still have her and she is still going strong. She was the beginning of our breeding program.” Janet Wojcik is another regular attendee at the Strawberry Banks open houses. “The open houses were excellent learning experiences, as the guest speakers, trainers, and judges always gave exceptional insight into the Arabian horse and the direction in which Strawberry Banks Farm was going with their breeding program. The presentations were always current and informative, educating guests about how to become successful in the Arabian industry.”
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There have only been a couple people that I have respected unconditionally. One was my father, who was a great and honest man, and Neil Chur. â€” Greg Knowles
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“This is a picture of all us together after my father passed away,” says Neil Chur Jr. “After my father’s service, my sister and I and our spouses and families all wrote messages on balloons and let them go at the farm. The wild thing was that one of those balloons floated back down to the polo field where he and I would ‘stick and ball.’ It was miles away at a different farm. For the balloon to fly up into the sky and land in the practice field was pretty cool.”
Memories of Neil
“Early on I think the horses were more Barb’s than Neil’s,” observes Brian. “I think he was so busy in his business that he just couldn’t participate that much. I had not been at Strawberry Banks very long when he started really getting involved in things that were happening in the training barn. One of my fondest memories is the sound of his loafers clicking down the barn aisle in the late afternoon, still in his work clothes. It was so cool, and I always felt so much pride because of the time he was spending at the barn, and that he was really getting so into riding and showing. Neil wanted to do well, but success wasn’t the end all. He was learning and he was having a blast with it. He always had such a great attitude, and I admired him so much. I miss him a lot and I am so thankful to Barbara for keeping the farm going.” “I met Neil and Barbara many years ago,” says Greg Knowles. “I bought horses for them, and some just for resale. I had nothing and was starving to death. Neil would always help me. I found Solina (Solstice x Cameliera) for them and she ended up winning the mare championship at the Buckeye. Neil decided to pursue halter a little because he liked being able to market youngsters much more quickly than you can with performance horses. When Lisa and I were getting a divorce, Neil flew us back to New York. He said, ‘I love you both. I want to talk to you.’ He brought us in and asked, ‘Is this fixable?’ We both said no and he said, ‘OK, I tried.’ What a neat thing to do. Neil and I enjoyed talking about the issues of the industry at great length. “There have only been a couple people that I have respected unconditionally — my father, who was a great and honest man, and Neil Chur. Neil Chur was a man who always had time to give me advice. He always listened to what I was saying. He was emphatic about always looking for a positive solution. He cared deeply about people.” “After my father’s service, my sister and I and our spouses and families all wrote messages on balloons and let them go at the farm,” says Neil Jr. “The wild thing was that one of those balloons floated back down to the polo field where he and I would ‘stick and ball.’ It was miles away at a different farm. For the balloon to fly up into the sky and land in the practice field was pretty cool.”
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Far left: Sawyer Tehan in 2010 with her first horse, the Half-Arabian Wind Saber (Exceladan x Tackitts Windsong).
The Chur grandkids from left to right: Peyton Chur, Sawyer Tehan, Keifer Tehan, Cooper Chur, Brady Tehan, Cody Tehan in driver’s seat, and Tyson Chur on front bumper.
Near left: Lissa Tehan and her daughter Sawyer.
The Strawberry Banks “Family”
In a business with constant turnover, it is unusual to find a farm whose core staff have the longevity of those at Strawberry Banks. “We have the greatest folks helping us at the farm,” says Barbara. “Liz (six years), Courtney (four years), and Hannah (three years) are fantastic and work with Brian in the training barn. Christina (10 years) and Nick (16 years) do an amazing job helping us with the horses and in the barns. Tim (22 years) is totally in charge of the maintenance around the farm, and keeps the grounds beautiful. Betsy (17 years) is my beautiful sister in the office, and Missy (26 years) runs the office like no one ever has before. It never ceases to amaze me how she can put her fingers on anything needed in an instant. Nichole (17 years) and Stacy (11 years) are in charge of our mare barn and breeding as well as the foaling. They make sure all the
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Above: Peyton Chur enjoying one of the scenic ponds on the farm. Right: The first wedding at the farm — Neil Chur Jr. and Marni. Marni is pictured here with her father.
mares are ready to be bred, and they collect and ship semen or frozen semen. They also make sure that the foals are on the right track the first year of their lives. Last but not least, Brian and Melanie Murch have been at Strawberry Banks Farm for 17 years. Our whole perspective with the farm changed when they arrived. What a blessed day that was for Neil and me. I still can’t believe they moved from sunny California to Buffalo shortly before Christmas with their two-year-old daughter, Ciara! We have been a great combination.” Brian adds, “In the beginning, I knew that I could believe in the Churs because I could see how they treated people that were working for them in their other businesses. They give people every opportunity to be successful. Other than spending the winters in Buffalo, they have made it extremely easy for us.” Adds Barbara, “How more fortunate could I be? Every single person working here loves the horses and the farm as much as I do … fantastic.”
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Left: “As a kid, I didn’t understand the passion that my parents had for the horses. Now I really get it,” says Lissa. She is pictured here riding August Engine (August Bey V x SR Baskability by MHR Nobility), Buckeye Champion Show Hack. Facing page: Barbara and A Temptation.
Strawberry Banks’ Breeding Philosophy
“I would love to be remembered for having produced absolutely beautiful horses that were also athletic and trainable,” says Barbara. “I don’t just want to have bred horses that people ride in the showring, but horses that anybody can ride and enjoy. My advice is that you need to do your homework first. Buy the best mares with great pedigrees that you possibly can. I believe it is better to have one outstanding mare than several average ones. But to me, in the end, it is a crapshoot. You have full brothers and sisters that don’t look alike or act alike. “Sometimes it works and you hit a home run. Sometimes it does not. As Dick and Kay Patterson advised us, very often 10s don’t give us 10s. You must look at pieces and parts of each individual and hope that by putting those pieces and parts together you get something special. I have learned that this usually doesn’t happen in the first generation. Don’t expect a stallion, no matter how great, to completely overcome the mare’s weaknesses. Every colt is not the next great breeding horse. I am a firm believer in gelding colts. Over time it became very clear to me that a successful breeding program needs time. Patience is imperative. “I am most proud that the Strawberry Banks-bred horses have a recognizable ‘look.’ They exhibit performance ability and are a beautiful sight to watch. They have the most amazing tail carriages that make them unmistakably Arabian.”
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Family is the most important breeding program of all! — Barbara Chur
Enchanting Memories (Baske Afire x Emayzing Grace by Hey Hallelujah).
“We have two exceptional young colts that we are very excited about,” says Barbara. “Exactly (Hey Hallelujah x Eternally Yours) is by Hey and out of an A Temptation daughter out of Ericca. He looks like Hey and acts like Hey. Emagin (Baske Afire x Emayzing Grace) is a Baske Afire colt out of the Hey daughter who is out of Ericca. He is big and strong and really sensible. He completely resembles his father, except grey.” “Strawberry Banks was a very special thing for my parents to do together,” says Neil and Barbara’s daughter, Lissa. “As a kid, I didn’t understand the passion that they had for the horses. Now I really get it. It’s pretty amazing that we started by just wanting a horse in the backyard and it evolved into what it is today. Like me, my sixteen-year-old daughter, Sawyer, has a true passion for the horses. It has been a great bonding experience with both my mom and now my daughter. When you are so passionate about something, and you have a child who is passionate about the same thing, it is wonderful. We can keep learning and growing together. It’s been incredible to have that bond and so important that I can share this with my daughter.” “My mom and I go to every single show together. It’s the coolest thing ever,” says Sawyer. “When I go off to school, I want to stay close enough so I can drive home and ride. After college, a big part of my life will be with the horses and the farm. I want to do it with my mom and my grandma. Then, one day, hopefully I can be in charge. My dream is to keep Strawberry Banks in the family and keep it going. I want to help create more amazing horses and extend the Strawberry Banks legacy.” Barbara reflects, “To share this love of our beautiful horses with Lissa and Sawyer is a special gift for me and an immense joy!” It is gratifying to know that the future of Strawberry Banks Farm is secure, and in loving hands for generations to come.
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Right: The 2015 colt Exactly (Hey Hallelujah x Eternally Yours by A Temptation) is destined to be a future sire at Strawberry Banks. Bottom left: The full brother to Enchanting Memories, the young stallion Emagin, another exciting stallion prospect for the farm. Bottom right: Sawyer and Lissa at the 2014 Buckeye show.
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Below: Strawberry Banks mares, from left to right: EA Candy Girl (Hucklebey Berry x Candy Hearts), Rejoice Rejoice (A Temptation x Rumina Afire), Remember Romance (Baske Afire x RY Fire Ghazi), ROL Fire Mist (Baske Afire x Firelite DGL by Duel), Eternally Yours (A Temptation x Ericca), Princess Of Baske (Baske Afire x Berry Fancee), Emayzing Grace (Hey Hallelujah x Ericca by Tempter), A Blessing (Afire Bey V x Mac Baske by Baskevich), and Enchanting Memories (Baske Afire x Emayzing Grace).
Barbara Chur, owner · Brian Murch, trainer 1181 Quaker Road · East Aurora, New York 14052 · 716.652.9346 · fax 716.652.4438 · firstname.lastname@example.org www.strawberrybanksfarm.com
Barbara Chur, owner · Brian Murch, trainer 1181 Quaker Road · East Aurora, New York 14052 · 716.652.9346 · fax 716.652.4438 · email@example.com www.strawberrybanksfarm.com Designed and produced by Arabian Horse World · 10/17
Neil and Barbara Chur’s “Strawberry Banks” brings to mind legendary show horses — Ericca, A Temptation, Allience, and so many others. Here i...
Published on Oct 9, 2017
Neil and Barbara Chur’s “Strawberry Banks” brings to mind legendary show horses — Ericca, A Temptation, Allience, and so many others. Here i...